Pet owners want to do all they can to safeguard the well-being of their companion animals, ensuring that their pets can be returned safely should they get lost while outdoors. Using collars with ID tags is one option, but a collar can come loose, while microchipping is a permanent solution.

A microchip is a small device that is injected under the pet’s skin. It is about the size of a grain of rice. Unlike collars or tags that can fall off or become illegible, a microchip always contains the data that has your identification.

Here are some common questions about microchips and answers collected from PetLink™, HomeAgain, The Humane Society, and the Niagara Frontier Veterinary Society.

Does the microchip have a battery or charge?

No, a microchip is simply an electronic chip enclosed in a glass cylinder. It is activated when a scanner sending out radio waves is passed over the chip, which then transmits the ID number to the scanner. The microchip is known as a transponder. You do not have to worry about replacing batteries or recharging the chip. Typically microchips last for 24 years, well past the average life span of many pets.

Is insertion of the microchip painful?

Veterinarians assert that injecting the microchip is no more painful than a typical vaccination. However, the needle to place the microchip is slightly larger. The procedure can be done during a routine office visit and does not require anesthesia. Some vets will implant the chip during a procedure for spaying or neutering so that the animal will be calm and still under anesthesia.

Who can read the chip?

Virtually all shelters and veterinarians have scanners that can read microchips. Beginning in 2004, the 134 kHz microchip was introduced with specifications developed by the International Standards Organization (ISO). This frequency is usually considered the global standard for pet microchips and the one that most scanners will read.

Where is the microchip placed?

Most dogs and cats are microchipped along the dorsal midline, which is just between the shoulder blades. Horses are injected along the left side of the neck, about an inch below the mane. Birds receive the implant in their breast muscles because they have less mass than other animals. These locations make it easier for scanners to find the chips.

Can a microchip migrate in the body?

Usually, your pet’s subcutaneous tissue will bond to the chip within 24 hours, preventing it from moving. There are rare instances when a chip migrates elsewhere in the body.

How can I register my pet?

The microchip is only effective if it is programmed with the pet’s contact information. Microchip registries coordinate with the chip used. You’ll simply make an account and link the chip to your name, phone number and other identifying information. It is important to update this data as needed when you move or get a new phone number.

Microchips, when used in conjunction with collars and ID tags, offer the best protection for pets.